Limited child protection audits find compliance

WASHINGTON – Twenty-seven of 29 Catholic dioceses and eparchies audited in 2006 complied with the church’s national standards for child protection programs and the prevention of and response to sexual abuse, says a report released April 11.

However, four dioceses that were not found in compliance in 2005 refused to participate in the 2006 audit.

“The overall results of the 2006 audit are encouraging,” said Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, chairwoman of the bishops’ all-lay National Review Board. But she described the refusal of four dioceses to participate as “discouraging news.”

Two – the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass. – had refused to participate in the 2005 audits as well and were supposed to undergo full audits. The Diocese of Baker, Ore., and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark (N.J.) for Syriacs refused partial audits that would have focused on those areas where they did not meet compliance standards in 2005.

“It is most unfortunate,” Ms. Ewers said, “that the bishops and eparchs of these dioceses/eparchies are unwilling to participate in the one measure of public scrutiny that assures the Catholic lay faithful that the church is taking every means possible to reach out to those who have been harmed by individuals in the service of the church and to promote the safety and well-being of the children entrusted to its care.”

William A. Gavin, president of the Massachusetts-based Gavin Group, which conducted the audits, reported that among the dioceses that were audited in 2006 only the Cincinnati Archdiocese and the Diocese of Burlington, Vt., were found to be not yet fully compliant with the abuse response and child protection standards set by the bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The remaining problem in both dioceses was the need to complete the safe environment training of all volunteers who work with children, he said.

He told Catholic News Service that both dioceses have been “very conscientious” about working toward full compliance and he expects they will reach that goal this year.

The report on the 2006 audits, prepared by the bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection, was released by Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after the National Review Board reviewed it and recommended its publication.
Noting the high level of compliance on all articles of the charter, Bishop Skylstad said, “Vigilance to ensure the safety of children is now a way of life.”

“In the last five years we have made enormous progress, yet we must continue to proceed steadfastly,” he said.

2006 was a transition year for the audits. To adjust better to the rhythms of parish and diocesan life that are built around the school year and summer vacation time, future audits will go from July 1 to June 30 instead of Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. All dioceses are to receive a full 2007 audit, which will look at compliance from July 2006 to June 2007.

At the review board’s suggestion, with the approval of the USCCB, for the transition year of 2006, audits were required only for those who failed full compliance with one or more charter requirements in the 2005 audit, and those audits focused only on the 2005 elements of noncompliance.

In addition, 11 dioceses or archdioceses received a full audit at their request. Three of those that requested a full audit – Amarillo, Texas; Boston; and Covington, Ky. – received required actions, but they had remedied the problem by the end of the year and were judged in full compliance with the charter.

The USCCB has contracted with the Gavin Group to continue to conduct the audits in 2007-09.

Teresa M. Kettelkamp, executive director of the USCCB Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the audits show that “the church has done a lot” to protect children from sex abuse and respond to it when it occurs.

“But, as I have said in the past, this does not mean the job is done,” she said. “Victims continue to come forward and a welcoming hand needs to reach out to them. Children still need our protection and safe environments must be maintained for them.”

In addition to the audit results, the 2006 report included the results of a national survey of dioceses and clerical religious orders by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

The CARA survey, third in an annual series begun in 2004, pulled together information on the number and nature of new allegations of clergy sex abuse of minors in 2006 and data on the costs to the church in settlements, legal fees, therapy, child protection programs and other abuse-related expenditures.

Nearly all dioceses and eparchies, 193 out of 195, and more than two-thirds of men’s religious orders, 150 out of 220, answered the survey.

CARA found that the number of new allegations and the number of new victims in 2006 dropped 34 percent from the figures in 2004; the number of clergy accused in 2006 was 40 percent below the 2004 figure. In 2004, 1,083 victims reported alleged abuse; in 2006, that number was 710. It found that, as in the previous two years, seven out of 10 new allegations related to abuse dating back to the years 1960-1984.

It found that abuse-related costs to the church in 2006 were about $333 million, down from the peak of $446 million reported in 2005.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.